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The Terms of Service clearly indicated that all content that you provide to SO Inc is licensed under CC-BY-SA, and that would include your About Me section of your user profile, which SO Inc is actively modifying, without indication, to remove links to a community fundraiser.

You agree that any and all content, including without limitation any and all text, graphics, logos, tools, photographs, images, illustrations, software or source code, audio and video, animations, and product feedback (collectively, “Content”) that you provide to the public Network (collectively, “Subscriber Content”), is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Overflow on a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis pursuant to Creative Commons licensing terms (CC-BY-SA).

Unlike previous versions, there's no exceptions for your content based on the type of content, or whether or not it gets populated with the the public API.

Currently, SO Inc insists that all content is now CC-BY-SA 4.0, which means that all modifications must be indicated.

FAQ version:

In the 4.0 license suite, licensees are required to indicate if they made modifications to the licensed material. This obligation applies whether or not the modifications produced adapted material. As with all other attribution and marking requirements, this may be done in a manner reasonable to the means, medium, and context. For example, "This section is an excerpt of the original." For trivial modifications, such as correcting spelling errors, it may be reasonable to omit the notice.

Full legal text:

Section 3 – License Conditions.
Your exercise of the Licensed Rights is expressly made subject to the following conditions.  
 a.Attribution.  
  1. If You Share the Licensed Material (including in modified form), You must:  
   A. retain the following if it is supplied by the Licensor with the Licensed Material:  
    i. identification of the creator(s) of the Licensed Material and any others designated to receive attribution, in any reasonable manner requested by the Licensor (including by pseudonym if designated);  
    ii. a copyright notice;  
    iii. a notice that refers to this Public License;  
    iv. a notice that refers to the disclaimer of warranties;  
    v. a URI or hyperlink to the Licensed Material to the extent reasonably practicable;  
   B. indicate if You modified the Licensed Material and retain an indication of any previous modifications; and  
   C. indicate the Licensed Material is licensed under this Public License, and include the text of, or the URI or hyperlink to, this Public License.  
  2. You may satisfy the conditions in Section 3(a)(1) in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which You Share the Licensed Material. For example, it may be reasonable to satisfy the conditions by providing a URI or hyperlink to a resource that includes the required information.  
  3. If requested by the Licensor, You must remove any of the information required by Section 3(a)(1)(A) to the extent reasonably practicable.

So where does Stack Overflow get the right to modify licensed content without indicating changes?

  • 5
    If you're downvoting this, can you give some sort of feedback? Do you disagree with Web Head's interpretation of the license? Do you think this isn't a problem? Do you think this is a distraction from other problems? – curiousdannii Nov 26 '19 at 1:14
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    This could easily be fixed by only allowing moderators and staff to wipe the bio completely instead of selectively removing violations. No content == no possible license concerns. Normally what I do if I have to edit something. – animuson Nov 26 '19 at 1:17
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    @animuson Yep that would be the simplest solution I think. It wouldn't need a change to the TOS and would probably be a smaller tech change than adding a history of profile changes to the public profile page. Or even just a social change by making that policy (and putting a tech change in the queue for later.) – curiousdannii Nov 26 '19 at 1:21
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    @animuson Agreed. There's no requirement to share the content, only requirements if you choose to. – user287266 Nov 26 '19 at 1:22
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    They could just suspend users who put in such links. As suspension reduces a user's rep to 1, and 10 rep is required for any links to render, this has the side effect of removing (formatted) links. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Nov 26 '19 at 2:37
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    @animuson: That's not, strictly speaking, the "American Way," is it? I have a better idea: add an edit history to user profiles, or drop the CC licensing for profiles. Or maybe, y'know, SE could simply provide the indicators that the license requires. Otherwise, I suppose we could just continue down the road of increasingly heavy-handed community handling. – user102937 Nov 26 '19 at 2:42
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    Also, not for nothing, but I think it would be fair to allow users to revoke SE's license to the content if SE isn't even going to bother hosting the content. – user102937 Nov 26 '19 at 2:49
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    @Robert I see an edit history for bios as an entirely pointless and incredibly wasteful use of developer resources that solves absolutely no useful problems. I'd rather not have bios than spend time expanding it that far. And I can't speak as to why our attorneys decided to change thw ording there, I can only trust that they had good reasons to do so. – animuson Nov 26 '19 at 3:01
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    @animuson♦: Why not manually add a tag to the text saying it has been modified, as per the licence? – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Nov 26 '19 at 3:04
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    @animuson: Which is why I stated the obvious: simply add the indicator that the license requires. – user102937 Nov 26 '19 at 3:12
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    @animuson well, once the wording was changed, it doesn't matter if it was "your attorneys" decided it not, they are not operating independently, they are effectively speaking for the company – Lamak Nov 26 '19 at 3:20
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    @Lamak I'm not sure what your point is. It doesn't make me magically knowledgeable of those reasons. – animuson Nov 26 '19 at 3:26
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    @animuson it's reasonable to follow up and ask about the risk here. I'd be surprised if anyone thought through this particular case. I don't know how SE's legal team works, but whenever I've brought things of this nature to my legal department, they've been very grateful that someone didn't just sit on it, assuming the brilliant legal minds must have already thought of every possible scenario. Just because legal looked at something doesn't mean it's bulletproof – De Novo Nov 26 '19 at 4:56
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    @Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica The 4.0 license stipulates that you have to indicate what changes were made, you can't simply add "edited", which is why this becomes an issue. Such as interface does not currently exist, and frankly I agree with animuson that it would be a waste of resources to add it. The policy should be, across the board, that staff and moderators can not modify a user's About Me page, they can only wipe it clean. This is also not the first time defacing of profiles instead of wiping them has been a problem. – user287266 Nov 26 '19 at 16:37
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    @WebHead: Then I ask, why did they (try to, because it is apparently illegal) change the licence? – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Nov 26 '19 at 22:31

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